Dear Laura

Dear Laura: One Guilt Trip Away

Dear Laura

Dear Laura,

I’m the oldest sibling in my family and the first one to get married and move away from my parents. Living in a different state makes me miss my family quite a bit, but I think the transition has been harder on them. After living three states away, we have now moved to *only* one state away. My parents want to take this as an opportunity to visit us almost every month. While I try to be accommodating, I have to tell them, “no” sometimes because of the difficulty of fitting visiting relatives in to our already hectic grad life schedule. When I talk to my parents on the phone, they always seem so desperate to hear even the most boring tidbit of my life. It makes me feel guilty and sad for them. Is there any way to help them be more ok with me being far away?

Sincerely,
Only a Guilt Trip Away

Dear Guilt Trip (if I may),

My husband and I just celebrated an anniversary, one of the double-digit ones that seem like they’re creeping up with a suddenness that is difficult to wrap our minds around. As part of our two-day celebration we sat down one night with a bottle of red and spent a few hours remembering.  We recalled travels and moves (and moves and moves) and stages and celebrations and milestones, but what was surprising and striking to me was how many of the most poignant and substantial memories were so simple and so deeply woven with people, our favourite, beloved people, and what was so clearly absent was…everything else.

The things we thought were so challenging and difficult and overwhelming at the time of their occurrence didn’t rise to the surface at all; it was our spirited and hilarious best-people that were sharply present in our remembering; those nights of board games and hot fudge sundaes, travel weekends, wine nights, and leisurely walks with these cherished friends and family cut right through the days, weeks, months, and years that at the time seemed so full of the pressures of life .  So, here is why I’ve started to answer your question by instead talking about myself (which is obnoxious, but thank you for indulging me):  it struck me so clearly that when we hit the greatest milestones – anniversaries, birthdays, and even death, what is going to be the best stuff of our memories, the stuff that makes everything else fade into the background is….people.

The stresses of the grad student journey will fade, the weekends you wish were spent recuperating on the couch instead of entertaining guests will fade, the irritation with the needy phone calls may even eventually fade, but your family is going to be there until the end. With that end in mind, let’s figure out a way for you to draw some boundaries around your rest-time and couple-time and give you a shot of confidence as you uphold these boundaries. It is great to have limits and to learn to express them clearly – what a gift to the people with whom you share relationships! – and it is also fantastic to serve the people you love by giving them time and access to your life to the extent you are able. What would that look like? Can you and your spouse talk about what the balance might involve and then can you gently start to work toward achieving that balance with your parents? Is there anything you can do to make the visits more enjoyable and less taxing? All worth a good discussion and planning session.

Also, I think we need to remember that the graduate journey, with all it’s trials and sacrifices and joys, does not belong only to us; our families and friends are affected deeply as well (especially when you start introducing grandchildren into the mix!). You’re not responsible for their emotional well-being and you needn’t feel guilty for launching out into this life adventure, but a positive response to their sadness involves striking a wise balance between your own needs and theirs. So, let’s be both wise about what we need as far as protecting our own marriages and selves, but also gracious to those people who are trying so hard to let us go, sometimes successfully and sometimes not so.  (Come to think of it, perhaps we need a new blog called “Graduate Grandmas”…. you’re welcome, Mandy and M.C.!)

-Laura

Laura M. Benton, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and professional Graduate Wife (12 years, friends. Two MA’s and a PhD.)

To write with your own question for The Graduate Wife team, email TheGraduateWife@gmail.com or LBenton.LMFT@gmail.com

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Monday's Food for Thought

Monday’s Food for Thought: The Awesomest 7-Year Postdoc or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Tenure-Track Faculty Life

new food for thought

A reader of our blog, E, sent us this amazing article written by Prof. Radhika Nagpal, a junior faculty member at Harvard. I know that most of us aren’t academics, and the only reason we find ourselves connected to this world is due to the fact we’re supporting someone in it. I think the message Prof. Nagpal gives is universal, and a wonderful positive message that can be integrated into everyday life.

In her own words:

I’ve enjoyed my seven years as junior faculty tremendously, quietly playing the game the only way I knew how to. But recently I’ve seen several of my very talented friends become miserable in this job, and many more talented friends opt out. I feel that one of the culprits is our reluctance to openly acknowledge how we find balance. Or openly confront how we create a system that admires and rewards extreme imbalance. I’ve decided that I do not want to participate in encouraging such a world. In fact, I have to openly oppose it.

So with some humor to balance my fear, here’s goes my confession:

Seven things I did during my first seven years at Harvard. Or, how I loved being a tenure-track faculty member, by deliberately trying not to be one.

  • I decided that this is a 7-year postdoc.
  • I stopped taking advice.
  • I created a “feelgood” email folder.
  • I work fixed hours and in fixed amounts.
  • I try to be the best “whole” person I can.
  • I found real friends.
  • I have fun “now”.

I decided that this is a 7-year postdoc.

I hope you enjoy it!

Happy Monday,

~Mandy

Dear Laura

REPOST: Dear Laura: Looking for Balance

Dear Laura

Dear Laura,

My question is: how can I remain supportive to my husband’s journey while still pursuing mine? Our biggest challenge is that the PhD path will delay my dream to start a family. I also have a lot of fears about moving across the country and away from our family and support network while starting a family of our own. At this time, I am the primary income provider and will continue to be while my husband is in school. What advice do you have for me to remain supportive while still focusing on my dreams and needs?

Signed,

Looking for Balance

Dear Looking for Balance,

The first rule – and the last rule, and every rule in between- of the grad student life is this: to survive this adventure, you have to be willing to accept that this journey will ask you, at different times and in different ways, to let go of your expectations for how your life will be. This might sound terrifying, but it also can be the source of much freedom and adventure, depending on how you lay the foundation for its reality.

Of course I will elaborate, but if I may summarize my response simply, here it is:  you need to evaluate, with your husband, whether this is the right path for you, and evaluation involves deciding whether your individual and shared life dreams can reasonably be tended if you begin this new grad student journey.

The littlest known fact about the academic life is that a certain level of loss of control is required. Oh, but control, how we do love you! All the controllers and planners out there are sighing at the idea that they will be (or have been) stripped of this fantastic comfort, right? Well, I believe there is reason to see this as a great gift rather than a painful reality. (Fellow controllers, close the ten-point life plan doc, complete with relevant websites and google maps and read on. Trust me, I am one of you; I can see your checklists even as I write.)

I like that you used the word “balance” because indeed the open-handedness which can be so fruitful and exciting must also be tempered with a resolve to hold on to the things that are most valuable, those goals and hopes and visions for your life which you will tenaciously grasp and claim.

So, the question is, how do you sift through every life vision and expectation you have had for your next stages of life, and wrestle with deciding which ones belong in the treasure pile, and which will be laid down to rest?  Here are some practical tasks:

  1. Sit down with a good cup of coffee or tea and have a chat with your two good friends, “Expectations” and “Big Plans” (not many friends enjoy being called “big”, but in this case, it’s okay). List them, look them over, and spend some time thinking about where they have originated; are they simply born of the norms of your current culture, or family expectations? Or are they deep, heartfelt hopes and dreams?
  2. Decide which of these expectations and plans fall into the category of those which you must treasure, respect, and cultivate or which become offerings to be set aside for the sake of the academic dream.
  3. Talk to your husband about his expectations – for himself, his career, and your family. Also, share your two metaphorical baskets: the one to which holds the dreams you are firmly clinging, and the one which holds the things you are willing to offer in order to trade them for something greater – the awesome unknown.
  4. Practically and deliberately plan for how each set of dreams and goals will be achieved and honoured. When I say practical, I mean every last detail.  If you both decide you want to have a baby before grad school is completed, discuss how you will obtain medical benefits, how much money you will need saved, and how you might balance childcare needs. Email others who have had children in grad school and ask 100 questions about how to make that work. And figure out a plan.
  5. Seek to make these dreams a reality, but also review the first and last rule of the grad student journey; as it turns out, it is not only the first and last rule for this journey, but for much of life.

Sometimes being stripped clean of everything you hold tightly leaves your hands empty, wide open, and ready to receive something new and beautiful, something greater than your imagination would have allowed. In other cases, the things that are closest to our hearts are meant to be protected, cherished, and cultivated; and the most difficult part is identifying what those are, then working out – together with your husband – how to bring them to life.

Be brave enough to tell yourself the truth, and you will find the balance you are seeking. (That sounds a bit Yoda-like, I know, but try it and see what happens, and then let me know how it goes!)

-Laura

Laura M. Benton, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and professional Graduate Wife (12 years, friends. Two MA’s and a PhD.)

To write with your own question for The Graduate Wife team, email TheGraduateWife@gmail.com or LBenton.LMFT@gmail.com

Dear Laura

Dear Laura: Looking for Balance

Dear Laura

Dear Laura,

My question is: how can I remain supportive to my husband’s journey while still pursuing mine? Our biggest challenge is that the PhD path will delay my dream to start a family. I also have a lot of fears about moving across the country and away from our family and support network while starting a family of our own. At this time, I am the primary income provider and will continue to be while my husband is in school. What advice do you have for me to remain supportive while still focusing on my dreams and needs?

Signed,

Looking for Balance

Dear Looking for Balance,

The first rule – and the last rule, and every rule in between- of the grad student life is this: to survive this adventure, you have to be willing to accept that this journey will ask you, at different times and in different ways, to let go of your expectations for how your life will be. This might sound terrifying, but it also can be the source of much freedom and adventure, depending on how you lay the foundation for its reality.

Of course I will elaborate, but if I may summarize my response simply, here it is:  you need to evaluate, with your husband, whether this is the right path for you, and evaluation involves deciding whether your individual and shared life dreams can reasonably be tended if you begin this new grad student journey.

The littlest known fact about the academic life is that a certain level of loss of control is required. Oh, but control, how we do love you! All the controllers and planners out there are sighing at the idea that they will be (or have been) stripped of this fantastic comfort, right? Well, I believe there is reason to see this as a great gift rather than a painful reality. (Fellow controllers, close the ten-point life plan doc, complete with relevant websites and google maps and read on. Trust me, I am one of you; I can see your checklists even as I write.)

I like that you used the word “balance” because indeed the open-handedness which can be so fruitful and exciting must also be tempered with a resolve to hold on to the things that are most valuable, those goals and hopes and visions for your life which you will tenaciously grasp and claim.

So, the question is, how do you sift through every life vision and expectation you have had for your next stages of life, and wrestle with deciding which ones belong in the treasure pile, and which will be laid down to rest?  Here are some practical tasks:

  1. Sit down with a good cup of coffee or tea and have a chat with your two good friends, “Expectations” and “Big Plans” (not many friends enjoy being called “big”, but in this case, it’s okay). List them, look them over, and spend some time thinking about where they have originated; are they simply born of the norms of your current culture, or family expectations? Or are they deep, heartfelt hopes and dreams?
  2. Decide which of these expectations and plans fall into the category of those which you must treasure, respect, and cultivate or which become offerings to be set aside for the sake of the academic dream.
  3. Talk to your husband about his expectations – for himself, his career, and your family. Also, share your two metaphorical baskets: the one to which holds the dreams you are firmly clinging, and the one which holds the things you are willing to offer in order to trade them for something greater – the awesome unknown.
  4. Practically and deliberately plan for how each set of dreams and goals will be achieved and honoured. When I say practical, I mean every last detail.  If you both decide you want to have a baby before grad school is completed, discuss how you will obtain medical benefits, how much money you will need saved, and how you might balance childcare needs. Email others who have had children in grad school and ask 100 questions about how to make that work. And figure out a plan.
  5. Seek to make these dreams a reality, but also review the first and last rule of the grad student journey; as it turns out, it is not only the first and last rule for this journey, but for much of life.

Sometimes being stripped clean of everything you hold tightly leaves your hands empty, wide open, and ready to receive something new and beautiful, something greater than your imagination would have allowed. In other cases, the things that are closest to our hearts are meant to be protected, cherished, and cultivated; and the most difficult part is identifying what those are, then working out – together with your husband – how to bring them to life.

Be brave enough to tell yourself the truth, and you will find the balance you are seeking. (That sounds a bit Yoda-like, I know, but try it and see what happens, and then let me know how it goes!)

-Laura

Laura M. Benton, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and professional Graduate Wife (12 years, friends. Two MA’s and a PhD.)

To write with your own question for The Graduate Wife team, email TheGraduateWife@gmail.com or LBenton.LMFT@gmail.com

Doing it Together (both in academia)

Graduate AND Wife

                                                                                                                                                                                

-written by Susan, a current graduate wife and student

The road to a PhD is a notoriously lonely one—after all, the whole point of your project is to accomplish something that no one else has.  So when academic couples tell you that it’s fantastic to have a spouse in the same profession, they’re totally right: it’s awesome to have someone who identifies with your academic lows (research dead-ends, arrogant colleagues, endless exam marking) and highs (publications,well-received conference papers, successful funding applications).  My husband (PhD researcher in Theoretical Particle Physics) and I (PhD researcher in History) feel fortunate to have this unique time in our lives: we travel together on conference/research trips, enjoy flexible schedules that allow us to work on the home we recently bought, and always have a partner at departmental functions who can talk to our colleagues about academia.

…Behind all of these perks, however, an uncertainty about the future lies in the back of our minds.

Being part of an academic couple is kind of a funny thing.  Because our job market is so constricted, and it’s rare that a university will look to fill posts for, say, a particle physicist and an early modern historian simultaneously, it is likely that post-PhD success will separate a couple—at least for a time.  Everybody in academia knows that the better you do at your PhD (the more results a physicist gets, the more illuminating a historian’s thesis is), the more likely it is that you’ll get a job in the academy after your viva (or defense, for those in North America) and graduation.  What everybody also knows, and tries not to talk about too much, is the far likelier option of doing a pretty good PhD and then going on to teach secondary school, work in publishing, or serve in university administrative posts because the academic job market is ridiculously tight. This means that the whole time you’re supporting your spouse and hoping they achieve their academic aspirations, you’re doing it with the knowledge that if they accomplish them, the flexibility and physical proximity you’re enjoying during the PhD stage of your careers will almost certainly be absent in the future.  It is somewhat odd, then, that I hope that my husband’s post-doctoral fellowship applications are successful next year, though this will undoubtedly take him either to continental Europe or North America, while I still have another year of research in the UK before I finish my PhD.  A further concern is that your careers will possibly never dovetail: if one partner gets a two-year post-doctoral fellowship and the other gets a three- or one-year post, there’s the chance that your professional paths will not square without sacrifice.  Of course, there are options; academic couples make it work all the time through teaching online courses, commuting over crazy distances, or the dream ticket, a spousal hire (where the university knows that the partner they really want, say, the physicist, will come to the university if they can find the money to hire the historian partner…though even this can have its own complications, as a spousal hire doesn’t always sit well with the ego).

The uncertainties surrounding physical distance and career timing unsurprisingly complicate planning a family.  Although our studies are funded, our grants cover our living costs but would not go a long way toward bringing up a child!  Also, both my husband and I feel that while we’re working toward our PhDs, our focus should be just that.  This begs the question, though, of when exactly would be a good time to start a family…after our PhDs, if we’re successful (and by some stroke of luck end up living near each other), then we will likely have fixed-term post-doctoral fellowships that will revolve around projects and getting additional publications under our belts—not the best time to be figuring out how to set up a crib or taking paternity/maternity leave.  Again, though, the same problem resurfaces if you’re successful after your fellowship and you get a permanent post: the first thing you’d like to do when you get a job is devote time to your students, develop your next research project, and get involved with your university. It is possible to do it all, though, and having a child will likely be worth the bump in your academic career, but it certainly complicates the route to your professional goals (and those
of your spouse).

The central tension here is the age-old problem of balancing a career and a family.  While we plan for the contingencies that will occur later in life, what I can say is that we are making the most of the amazing time we’re having together as PhD researchers.  We both love our jobs—getting paid to do something you enjoy that allows for flexibility and travel offers us time to grow as a couple and to learn about each other.  It is with these lessons in mind that we will march toward our future, filled with professional twists and family turns, but rooted in the foundation we built as PhD students.

If you are a graduate wife and student, how do you cope with balancing the work you’re doing, and the work your spouse is doing?


Balanced Life? · Children

What Does a Balanced Life Look Like? Part VII (your average day)

The below question and responses were compiled by fellow graduate wife reader, Laura Lee.  She surveyed several women on the journey and is sharing with us their answers. You can see her original post here, where she outlines her journey towards discovering the answers of a ‘balanced’ life during this season of being a graduate wife and beyond. This is the last section of the ‘What does a balanced life look like?’ series.  Enjoy!


6) What is an average day like for you?  Do you wake up before the kids? How do you handle that “It’s 5pm and my child is hungry but I am cooking” time of day? What aspects of your days energize you and add fun to life? Do you do home-related things while your kids are awake or wait until naptime? When you need to distract your kids while you tackle something, what things work for you to do the distracting–playdough, kids DVDs, favorite toys? 

  • I do try to clean etc while our son is napping. It doesn’t always work out like that, but I’d rather be doing something fun while he’s awake, then have him be bored (he gets majorly destructive when he’s bored). Obviously, there are times when that cannot be avoided, so that’s when I let him watch Thomas the Train or Chuggington…which is a treat. Recently, I’ve also found that if I’m including him in with what I’m doing – moving groceries in from the pram, allowing him to help me cook – he’s much happier. Yes, it takes 3 times as long, but he’s learning in the process, so I think it’s a win-win for us all. On most days. :)
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  • Hmmm. . . average day. Usually, our daughter wakes at about 6 AM, and my husband gets her up and plays with her for the first hour or so of the day. He is also able to check email, make coffee and plan his day at this time. I get up and eat breakfast with them and our daughter then takes a morning nap, so I usually use this time to catch up on emails, plan/prepare the meal for that night (which is my greatest strategy for the whole ‘it’s 5 PM, and our daughter has had enough’ experience) and clean. When she gets up, we try to go do something (Monday Mums, open air market, flea market, go for a run, playground, etc.). Then, I get her back around 12 or so for lunch and a second nap. The timing of the second nap is good for phone calls to the US. And I can clean and organize while I talk. My mom is often asking, “What is that noise?” :) My daughter and I sometimes go out and do something after her second nap, which usually is just a walk or a run or something. Then, my husband comes home and plays with her while I either run or cook dinner. He tries to be home by around 5 or 5:30, which is sometimes pushed back due to various obligations (I am often annoyed with the meetings that are scheduled right at 5:30 or 6 – do people at the university have families?).
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  • A typical day for us usually looks like this…(i say ‘usually’ because things are always changing when you have a toddler and a husband in a demanding program).  My husband gets up with our son around 7/7:30am.  I stay in bed a little longer then get up and take a shower/get ready.  If it’s a work-out day I sleep longer and take a shower later in the day.  My husband leaves or starts working by 8/8:30 and I play with our son then get him dressed.  Then we go out for our morning errands, Mon. Mums, etc. by 9:30am.  He loves a change of scenery so he does pretty well in the stroller…but  I always make sure I have snacks!  We are home around 11:30/12:00.  We eat lunch and I try to clean up right away.  Luke goes down for a nap around 12:30 and sleeps until about 2:30/3:00.  During that time I workout, do laundry, catch up on emails, blog, listen to sermons, read, clean, try to relax for a bit, etc…When he wakes up from his nap I give him a snack, we play for a bit, then I get him ready to go outside (which takes a while, but it’s getting better).  I like to be out from about 3:30ish-5:00ish( again…depending on the weather).  We go to the park or play around our college…see the ducks in the pond, play at the playground, run on the grass, play in our courtyard.  We are back home around 5pm and I feed him dinner.  I usually feed him the left overs from the night before so I can get him started right away and start cooking for my husband and me.  If I have to prepare him something I usually start him on fruit or crackers to hold him over.  If he’s being really fussy I’ll put Sesame Street or a video on for him.  My husband usually gets home around 5:30, plays with our son, and starts him in his bath.  I try to finish up the meal, do the dishes, and meet them in the bathroom.  Our son loves his bath so it’s always a really fun time for our family.  We always have a lot of laughs so I don’t like to miss it!  Then we get his pj’s on and eat dinner in our living room so that Luke can play while we eat.  We play, give Luke his milk, read books, and sing songs.  Some evenings we Skype with family and friends around this time.  Our son goes to bed around 7:30pm.  My husban and I then spend from 7:30-9:30pm together.  Then I get ready for bed and read or go on the computer.  I try to be asleep by 10:30/11:00pm.
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  • I’ve been waking up before my daughter (7:00ish) but almost always stay in bed as long as she – or the day’s schedule – will allow.   We try to eat dinner around 5:30.  When my daughter gets hungry (as she inevitable will) I tell her that we are going to have dinner very soon but that if she is very very hungry she may have 3 (or whatever number) breadsticks or carrot sticks or grapes (or whatever) but only 3. Then I have her count them out.  (I used to do it for her – obviously.)  When she finishes them and asks for more I remind her of what I said before and say something like, “You already has some carrots.  Remember, you were very very hungry so I told you that you could have 3 carrots and then we counted them out, 1, 2, 3.  Remember?  Weren’t those yummy carrots?!  You ate them all up!  Good job!!  We’re going to have some dinner in just a little bit and then we can eat some more!”  It doesn’t mean she won’t still whine for snacks, but it’s important for her to know that A.) she can wait, that B.) I am a woman of my word, and that C.) the world does not revolve around her.  Plus I don’t want to spoil her appetite for dinner.  If left to her own devices she would eat nothing but pretzels for days!  Of course it helps if my husband is here and can be reading with her in the living room or can be outside with her or whatever, but that’s not always possible. Also, I try to do as much prep beforehand as possible (like during her nap or) even days before.  Like if I have 2 different chicken dishes that week, I might cook up all the chicken on one day so it’s ready to go the next time I need it.  Or grate enough cheese to last me all week or slice some of the veggies I’ll need for dinners that week on Sunday night and then just use them as I need them throughout the week.    I am currently loving gardening and am so glad to have a bit of a yard this year.  I am wanting to sew more.  I love taking our daughter to the library to pick out and discover new books together – we go to the Rhyme Time almost every week (Wednesday, 10:30 – 11am, central library) and then we go to the outdoor market to pick up fresh produce.  She really loves the library and I really love the market!  I’m also enjoying engaging with the very lonely old woman across the street… it takes so little to brighten her day and by extension to make mine feel a bit more significant. Do you do home-related things while your kids are awake or wait until naptime? Both, but no strong chemicals while my daughter is nearby.  She loves to help (I give her a clean cloth to wipe the sink while I’m cleaning the tub or a small hand broom and dustpan while I’m using the big broom.)  When you need to distract your kids while you tackle something, what things work for you–playdough, kids DVDs, favorite toys?  I just never know what’s going to grab her attention.  A video will almost always work but we don’t have many that will play on my computer so that doesn’t work while my husband is gone with his.  She’s always been a pretty independent player and so I usually wait until I see that she is already happily engaged in an activity and then I seize the moment to tackle something off my list.
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  • No, I don’t wake up before the kids and I am so over trying to make that happen! I absolutely love having the kids wake up at 7 (the boys have their own clocks now and aren’t allowed out of their rooms until 7) and then come pile in bed with us. It is one of my favorite times of the day. In fact, some days I do wake up and exercise early (usually Mondays and sometimes Wed) and I find that I really miss our snuggle time. What aspects of your days energize you and add fun to life?  Making my kids feel special, making our home a warm, friendly place, connecting with my husband, having a good conversation with a friend…all these things give me energy.  Do you do home-related things while your kids are awake or wait until naptime?  I’m a little old-school here, but I like for my kids to know that they are not the center of the universe and that I have lots of other things to do in addition to caring for and playing with them. I found (when the kids were young) that if I gave them 20-30 minutes of my undivided attention, then I could realistically ask for them to play on their own for at least that same amount of time. Playing on their own is a great skill for kids to learn. And they have to learn it the hard way….by doing it! My daughter is 3 now and can play on her own for an hour at time. And the boys can go for longer than that! So all that to say, I do house work and other responsibilities while the kids are awake and save their nap time as ‘my time’.

7) What are the ways you inject humor into your life and get some good laughs? :)

  • My ridiculously entertaining 2 year old and youtube keep me smiling.
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  • I find that my son is always making me laugh.  I love acting silly with him and making him laugh.  It’s especially fun to see my husband be silly with him since he’s usually so shy and reserved with everyone else.  We love listening to music and dancing around our flat.  My husband and I love to watch comedy sit-coms.  Some of our favorites that always make us laugh are Modern Family, The Office, Better With You, How I Met Your Mother, Big Bang Theory, and Parenthood(this one also makes me cry every time…it’s my favorite show!).  It’s fun to watch them together and most of them are only like 20 minutes since there are no commercials.
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  • When we really need a laugh, we watch WipeOut.  (Or look at our budget.  Ha!)
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  • My daugher! That child cracks me up. My husband and I also love joking about the English. We must laugh at least once a day about some way that they are so very different from us! They surprise us regularly! And I love them for it! :)
Balanced Life? · Faith

What Does a Balanced Life Look Like? III (Faith)

 

The below question and responses were compiled by fellow graduate wife reader, Laura Lee.  She surveyed several women on the journey and is sharing with us their answers. You can see her original post here, where she outlines her journey towards discovering the answers of a ‘balanced’ life during this season of being a graduate wife and beyond. This is part III of the ‘What does a balanced life look like?’ series.  Enjoy!

2) If developing and deepening your faith is important to you, how do you find time to do that with jobs, families, and supporting your grad student spouse? When do you take time and what do you do during that time?

  • Devotional time – this one has suffered greatly since my son’s birth. I used to put enormous pressure on myself about spending time reading my Bible, praying, etc…to the point where I was getting no sleep trying to do it all, and feeling like a bad mother and horrible wife, and frankly, that was true. I spoke to a mentor of mine – who has 5 grown adult children – and she basically said, “God extends grace to mothers.” For whatever reason, that put a new spin on things for me, and I didn’t look at it as such a chore. So now, I look for pockets of time in the day to reflect and pray – I find my runs to be a good time for that – and I usually read my Bible at night before I go to bed. And, by serving my family, I am serving God. I’m finding that God is meeting me right where I am in this current season of life – he sends little nuggets of truth my way all the time. I also listen to sermons when I run as well.

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  • I am far better at making time to run than to spend time with the Lord (I am willing myself not to delete that comment). That being said, I have found that my most ‘centered’ times are when I am running, so I will often listen to readings or sermons while running. Here are two sites I frequent for sermons:Tim Keller’s free sermons and Lyle Dorsett’s sermons (an old prof). Also, I enjoy using a study or commentary to guide my reading, like Tom Wright’s ‘for everyone’ series. I’m a school girl at heart, so I love filling in blanks and completing lists. It’s always been easier for me to read during the evening sometime, even though I’ve always wished it was the morning.

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  • I try to spend time with the Lord throughout my day.  I am the queen of “breath-prayers” which are just a sentence or two speaking to God.  It has been a challenge for me to have a set “quiet time” with the Lord where I’m not praying and doing something else…but it looks like I’m not alone.  I tend to pray in the shower and when I’m on walks with my son, or on the treadmill.  I also like to listen to sermons from our church back home when my son is napping.  My husband and I recently decided that we are going to spend an hour in the evenings, after our son goes to bed, reading the bible and praying together.  We used to do it before our son was born and started it up again.  I love the Psalms and Proverbs and enjoy reading those before I go to bed.
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  • I think I’ve mentioned this before but I am NOT a morning personal by nature.  Morning is not the best, freshest time for me to give a chunk of my time and attention to God.  So I often do this before bed (assuming I’m not passing out on my pillow exhausted from the day!)  Occasionally, and this is my favorite way to do this, I make myself a cup of tea and spend my daughter’s nap time reading/in prayer.  But mostly I just pray about 800 times a day… trying to include God in each small choice I make (and attitude I assume) all throughout each day.  My husband and I always pray together before we drift off to sleep.  I’m not big into ‘devotional’ style books but I do enjoy reading and there are lots of good books out there which challenge me to read the Bible in fresh, deeper ways and cause me to hear God’s voice in new ways too.
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  • Someone talked to me about ‘seasons’ when my first son was little bitty baby and I have to say that was the single best piece of knowledge I got about having kids and being on a graduate student schedule/lifestyle. Life comes at you in seasons and having little kids in your home is a season like none other! I can remember amazing times with the Lord sitting on my steps in our little flat in Cambridge while I was breastpumping in the middle of the night. BREASTPUMPING!!! As my friends in East Texas might say, ‘Who’da thunk it?’!   Regarding seasons, I do have to say about a year ago, when my last one was 2’ish, I realized that I was out of the ‘baby season’ but that my time with the Lord hadn’t progressed past that season. So I kind of had to kick start myself since I realized I was beginning to have more time to invest in spiritual disciplines again.   I’m a one book at a time kind of girl. I love to be absorbed in a good book and I read, read, read until I finish it. I find this is how I like to do my Bible study. Whatever we’re studying in church or my Monday Mums group, I like to just bury myself in it. So for example right now, I’m really looking forward to getting stuck into Isaiah as we go through the book in church. My husband is a biblical scholar so he will give me a good book to go along with whatever I happen to be into at the time and it helps me through the hard bits or historical stuff.  Also, I’m not really a ‘doer’ but more of a ‘be-er’, so I find passages like John 15 where Jesus tells us to ‘abide in Him’ really encouraging. I just want to be connected to Jesus. I want to interact with him, complain to him, talk in my head to him and rest with/in him. But I also want to be stretched by him. I’ve been learning over the last couple of years to allow the Holy Spirit to use my spiritual gifts in ways that I know are not my own ideas. Often times I find it really easy to operate while using my natural gifts. I even find it energizes me. But I’ve been praying that God would use my gifts (hospitality, mercy and giving) in supernatural ways to benefit his people and his kingdom. Last year I felt urged to call a friend and tell her I was bringing them dinner one night. I knew she was pregnant (and due soon) but I had no idea all 3 of her children had had the stomach bug and that she hadn’t slept in 3 nights! That meal was like a love letter to her from God. Then there was a time I felt God lead me to buy one of my best friends back in the states some make-up. I obeyed (with trepidation wondering how I was going to explain to my husband why I spent $80 on make-up for my friend miles and miles away), but then was astounded that she (who’s hubby is doing a PhD and they are on an extremely tight budget) had been praying specifically that God would send her some new make-up! My husband couldn’t argue with that! In fact, he rejoiced with me that his hard-earned money was used by God to love on our friend.  Sorry, that was kind of a tangent, but I’m very relational and to see my relationship with the Lord benefiting others is a real motivating factor for me.